A good work life balance can be difficult to attain, but it’s essential in reducing day-to-day stress and improving your physical and mental health. In this article, let’s look into why this is the case and assess some useful tips for work life balance improvement if you are currently leading a busy and stressful routine.
What is work life balance?
The definition of work life balance is ‘the division of one’s time and focus between working and family or leisure activities’. Ensuring that you have a ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ work life balance means that you are able to do your job efficiently but are also still able to have some downtime outside of work too. However, this division between work and life does not have to be equally balanced out.
Having a good work life balance doesn’t simply mean achieving a 50-50 split between your work life and your home life. In fact, a good work life balance can look different to everyone. It means to feel happy in both leisure and work, without your job infringing on what is supposed to be your downtime.
If you often find yourself thinking about work or spending more time working than having fun, this could be a sign of a poor work life balance. Aspects of a poor work life balance can involve having difficulty sleeping, worrying about work when you’re at home, and consistently doing overtime when you should be unwinding from work. Spending time checking your work emails late at night does not have a place in a relaxing bedtime routine. Instead of focusing on work, you need to focus on getting a better night’s sleep instead.
With a poor work life balance, you may be worrying about your next meeting or forward planning your next work project while you’re meant to be spending time with your family. Or, you may be working long shifts that give you no time to rest properly or do anything you enjoy outside of work.
Why is having a good work life balance important?
People who have a poor work life balance tend to suffer from increased levels of stress because they find it very hard to ‘switch off’ their brains after the working day has finished. You need to have enough time outside of work to be happy and healthy – to sleep, eat well, and do the things that you enjoy. This is essential for both your body and brain to function normally.
Stress manifests in different ways in different people. Some people find it hard to sleep or eat due to stress, while others may eat more as a response. Stress can make it harder to control emotions and can make us feel irritable, affecting our relationships with others.
Research has also repeatedly suggested that stress can damage your health in a variety of ways, from ruining teeth through grinding them and stress can also physically damage your heart muscles too. It can also reduce our immune system’s ability to function, resulting in higher susceptibility to disease. Stress also causes blood pressure to rise too and this can also affect your health in the long run. High blood pressure can lead to headaches and can also affect eye health too.
How to improve work life balance
Ensuring that you take the breaks that you’re entitled to during the working day can be highly effective in reducing stress – take at least half an hour for lunch and take shorter breaks throughout the day. For these breaks to help, they have to be actual breaks. Don’t eat your lunch at your desk if you can help it – go to the break room or, even better, take a walk outside. Getting away from the working environment gives the brain a chance to reset.
Speaking of taking a walk, exercising has been scientifically proven to boost physical and mental health. Even just going for a walk or trying light yoga can help, although cardio is known to release feel-good hormones (it’s why they call it the ‘runner’s high’). Other mental health benefits of running also include elevating your mood and helping to improve your memory.
Exercise may not be your thing, but any amount of time spent away from a screen is beneficial. The workplace is highly digitised nowadays and spending all day staring at a screen can affect your eyesight and cause headaches. Try to reduce screen time wherever possible, such as choosing to read a book or talk to a friend instead of scrolling through social media.
However, perhaps the most important tip to improving your work life balance and reducing stress is to create boundaries at your workplace. Don’t take on more tasks than you can and manage your time carefully, systematically working through your day. Communicate with your manager about struggles you may be experiencing and try to make necessary changes. Turn off all work-related devices when you’re not working, even if you work from home – try to have a dedicated workspace and do not spend time at it other than for work.